By Jaclyn McKeon, AmeriCorps member serving on the Highlands Middle School Team

Photos of the AmeriCorps members serving at Highlands Middle School

“Ah just another day in paradise,” he will say with a smile on his face. 

Whenever you ask Principal Simmons how he is doing, he will reply the same way, no matter the day or time. Principal Simmons along with the rest of the administration, faculty, and staff know that Highlands isn't what most people imagine paradise to be. There is no white sand beach or fruity drinks with umbrella, and there is certainly no island music being played in the hallways.

City Year has been in Jacksonville for three years, but this is our first year serving at Highlands Middle School. Going into any new partnership can be intimidating, but the second we stepped into the hallways at Highlands Middle School, we were accepted by everyone, and treated like we had been there for years. We quickly learned our way around the school, what bathrooms to avoid, what students to keep an eye on, and what water fountain works the best - with a little help from school teachers and staff. The Highlands staff took us under their wing and made sure City Year was welcomed with open arms, minds and hearts.City Year’s partnership with Highlands works so well because we all share a common goal, to give the students a future they are proud of. We all work as a team to complete this goal. We make sure our students know there is no limit to what they can accomplish, and that we will never give up on them.

As November approaches and rings in the season of thanks, I am thankful for not only my school team, but also all of the hard working staff, faculty, administration, and students. I am thankful for my partner teacher who has so much love for her students, and who tells me everyday how lucky she is to have me in the classroom. I am thankful for the students who might not say thanks everyday, but who appreciate City Year and all that we do. I am thankful for the school staff and faculty who make sure Highlands is a functional learning environment and meets every student’s needs. Everyday we make Highlands a little better than the day before. Even though there will never be a beach or palm trees lining the halls, with all our partnership is accomplishing we are on our way to making Highlands just like paradise. 

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